To be friends with Karen and Stephen Rowe you must be able to keep up with rapid-fire conversation and find pleasure in acerbic wit as both are sharp tongued and sexy brained. Karen is highly intelligent, observant, and hella funny while Steve is calm, well spoken and warm, and together they parent five adorable furbabies and a massive book collection. Stephen’s Never More There was featured on BF a couple months ago and I had the pleasure of reading his latest manuscipt around the same time. I’m now on book two of Karen’s mystery series that revolves around a young woman whose curious nature tends to get her in trouble and help her solve crimes.
Congrats to Karen and Steve who just won the Arts and Letters Awards for What Rabbit Knows (short fiction) and Point of Reference (poem) respectively.
Tell us a little about your partner’s writing process or writing habits.
Karen: Steve is meticulous with his poetry. He’s very deliberate and particular in his word choices, he edits constantly. Everything is fitted together like a wordy little puzzle, which is what makes him such a good poet, I think. He owns his method. It’s his craft. By the time I read his work, it seems like it’s just appeared on the page perfectly formed, but I know there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes trickery. He rarely lets me read works in progress and appears to hate everything until he’s done with it.
Steve: When it comes to writing longer pieces, or a novel she may be working on, Karen tends to do a lot of preparation work before she gets to the point where she starts to write. Much of this is done before I even hear about what the project is. Her characters are well developed very early and she has most details of plot worked out in her head. She may then transfer these ideas to paper in note form as she organizes the world of her story in a formal way (this is more common with longer, more intricate plots). When she’s ready to write, it’s not uncommon for her to spend long hours or a whole day/weekend in front of the computer.
What are some of the pros and cons of living with a writer?
Karen: Our house is a labyrinth of books. One day we’re likely to be found crushed beneath them…not sure if that’s a pro or a con, to be honest. He and I both go through phases of writing, and when we’re both working on something at the same time, everything else gets ignored. That being said, writers understand the time it takes to write, and will put up with you locking yourself in a room for six hours to play with your imaginary friends. They know that there isn’t necessarily any time for proper nutrition or laundry while things are happening creatively. “Can’t talk; writing,” seems to be adequate explanation.
Steve: Pros: There’s always the understanding that time is needed to write. As a household, we have no problems rearranging our day (meals, errands, etc.) to accommodate each other’s need to find time. Another positive is having someone else there to run ideas past and play the role of informal editor. Karen’s also able to see the best parts of my writing before I can. Cons: The competitive side of me can see my own output decline sometimes when Karen is writing up a storm. I’m sure this affects me somehow and must feed whatever insecurities I may have. I sometimes respond by actively working harder on my own pieces, so perhaps this can also be seen as a pro. Also, we’ve said in the past that we have way too many books in the house, but I can’t really see that being a negative.
How does living with another writer affect your writing?
Karen: Steve is pretty much like having a walking thesaurus around, which is handy. After I lost a huge section of a piece I was working on, he typed it back up from a hard copy in his spare time, which is pretty much the ultimate expression of caring, right? I bounce ideas off him, and he’s rarely freaked out when he catches me speaking dialogue out loud. To myself. Sometimes in the shower.
Steve: We rarely write about the same things, so there’s little direct influence on each other’s writing, content wise. There’s the understanding of the individual boundaries that we both need, creatively and when we actually sit down to write. When Karen’s in the mood to write, I know well enough to give her whatever time she needs to get it done. I can’t speak for Karen, but I do find it inspiring to see her at work on a story and that energy helps my attitude towards any poems I’m writing at the time.
Describe your partner’s next project.
Karen: Steve has a new manuscript that’s basically finished. Three poems from it have already won Arts & Letters awards, which is a tremendous accomplishment. He’s already writing new material – which I haven’t gotten to see yet.
Steve: Karen has a couple of things in the works right now. She won an Arts and Letters Award a couple of years back for a short story called “Deepest Harbour”, set in a fictional Newfoundland community. She’s since been writing companion pieces to flesh out the world she’s created there. Karen’s also found an interest and talent in writing the mystery novel and has been quite prolific at it.
What do you wish for them?
Karen: I wish poets still had wealthy patrons who could keep Steve in the lifestyle to which he would like to become accustomed while crafting excellent literary works. As it is not 1785, I will have to wish that he continues to love his work and that it never becomes a chore. Also, the perfect cup of tea.
Steve: Happiness and tranquility.
What are you reading now?
Karen: I have a small heap of things lined up. Kate Morton, Alan Bradley and Agatha Christie are on the top of the list. Honestly, I have got to start reading one book at a time at some point. But where’s the fun in that?
Steve: I’m currently reading Michael Crummey’s latest, Under the Keel, which has been fantastic thus far. I’m also feeding my philosophical interests by paging through Plato’s Republic and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.